Toward those ends, Vicarious is drawing from neuroscience, deep architectures, and generative probabilistic models to create AI that requires "orders of magnitude" less training than traditional machine-learning techniques do, it says.
The company has raised roughly US$70 million to date, with investors including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and Box CEO Aaron Levie.
Phoenix's company may be working to create AI with a broader style of human-like intelligence that can learn and generalize, but he isn't worried about the widespread loss of jobs that's so commonly foretold.
"If you look back through past technology revolutions -- automated factories, software, PCs -- many jobs were destroyed by those, yet we still have jobs today," he said. "The job I have today didn't exist back then; others were very different."
The flip side of the story is that AI will help us do more than we did before, so jobs will change -- but not disappear.
"The idea that we'll run out of jobs or things for humans to do is, at least in the short term, pretty far-fetched," Phoenix said. "There are going to be lots of new types of jobs created."
One need only look around to see that "there's so much to be done, so much to be invented to get us to a better society," he added. "There's so much we can achieve by having our systems be more intelligent -- there's always more work we can do and higher heights we can reach as a species."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.